As with any specialty collection, you should adopt a clear collecting strategy when building a beer collection. Not just any beer is collectable, but those most rare or difficult to obtain beers are able to raise your beer collection to an enviable status.
But remember: the purpose of collecting beer is, at some point, to drink what you’ve collected! Even the finest and sturdiest beers have a limited shelf life. Unlike our wine connoisseur brethren whose vintage wine collection may improve with age, seasoned beer drinkers know that a fine collection is like maintaining a garden: smell the roses while they’re in bloom, and then work hard in the winter months to provide for the following spring.
Collecting Beer Cans
If your passion is beer in cans, you can easily save those. While the hobby of beer can collecting has had its ups and downs, beer can hobbyists do not take their collections lightly. The first beer cans were used in the 1930s. Beer in cans caught on a lot faster in the United States than in other parts of the world, so these cans are easier to find. Early European beer cans are more difficult to find and are thus more valuable.
Beer cans exist in flat top (requiring a church key to open them), cone top, pull-tab, and the newest stay-tab type. Beer cans are colorful and interesting, and large collections or collections of rare pieces are certainly something to talk about. One of the few drawbacks to collecting cans is the need for ample display space.
A tip for new collectors: The 1970s saw a huge influx of “special” cans specifically aimed at collectors, including the infamous Billy Beer can. While you may see ads for the “rare” Billy Beer can on EBay, keep in mind that an estimated two billion cans were made (that’s the lowest estimate) and the word “rare” is most likely used to separate new beer can collectors from their money.
Collecting Beer Bottles
Long before the introduction of the beer can, brewers provided beer in kegs for the pub and bottles for drinking from the comforts of home. Some of the earliest bottles from the mid-1800s were stoneware and used for storing ginger beer. To acquire these treasures, most collectors need to find an undiscovered rubbish dump, as most have been thoroughly scoured by now.
While beer bottle collections can include some of these very old relics, you can put together a collection of beers you’ve enjoyed in the past, bottles you find interesting even if the contents don’t measure up, miniature beer bottles, or bottles of a certain beer type.
The BCCA Wants You
The Brewery Collectibles Club of America is an organization designed to help people of similar interests (collecting beer collectables) meet and get in touch with one another. Founded in 1970, the organization was originally called the Beer Can Collectors of America. While a majority of the members collect beer cans, anyone who collects beer memorabilia (breweriana) is encouraged to join.